By Alan Baban | 7 July 2011
I made a new friend at the Bright Eyes concert, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, although it was hard and the guy didn’t actually want to be “new friends” with me—in fact, he actively resisted—until Bright Eyes arrived to play a few songs on stage. Amidst the high-frequency screams and emo-detonations of several hundred beleaguered teenagers who raised devil’s hands and threw beer and underwear, who swilled warm melted chocolate out of Haagen-Dazs cups and body odor out of each others’ scented armpits, my new friend, who was still not yet my friend, turned to me and said, “Well, this isn’t so bad, isn’t it, Alan?”
Then he changed his mind and said, “Actually, what am I talking about? I want to kill myself right now. Alan, will you help me through this unutterable pain and monotonous suffering?” I nodded, said nothing, and my new friend, who wanted nothing but to end his monotonous suffering without leaving the venue (the venue was pretty), tried to fall asleep on my shoulder as Conor Oberst strummed a fat G chord and monotonously told him to make a difference in somebody else’s life approach, or something. Conor Oberst might have been telling me that.
It was too noisy to fall asleep on my shoulder. So my new friend took the suicide plan off the skids and put it in motion. A great prolonged burst of expensive yellow lighting illuminated his face as he reached for the inside pocket of his jacket where he said—it was hard to hear him above the noise—he had only the one suicide pill with him and that we would have to somehow decide between us who it would be: him or me, to die here, right now, at the Bright Eyes concert. Who would it be? And hurry up, because there’s going to be a fucking encore soon enough.
I said it would have to be him (I was there with my girlfriend; he was there alone), though I tried to talk him out of it, but it was too late, because my girlfriend—she was unhappy about my new friend, he was making so much of a goddamn issue out of this—took the white pill from his sweating hand and thrust it rhythmically into his mouth until he at last swallowed it and could sit back—knowing he was about to die—and enjoy the rest of the fucking Bright Eyes concert already.
You know, it was actually not the worst concert in the world. I mean, sure, it was stupidly noisy, overlong, repetitive, crass, world-ending schtuyf, and it induced the most cadaveric pseudo-dance motions in the mosh pit before us all, but the performance of Conor Oberst himself contained a certain charm. A certain “he’d cut-his-hair-ness and ditched the awful white suit from the Cassadaga (2007) tour” that made things go down with greater ease. It was a greatest hits show, really, and I clapped along to all my favorite songs from the Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005) and I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (2005) sets, and when the new material belatedly surfaced, I ate some Haagen-Dazs. (A man sold mini-tubs to us out of a bucket.) The ice cream was good for me during the bad music. But overall, it was not a bad evening at all, it turned out, so I turned back to my new friend who was dying and asked him whether he had any regrets with respect to, y’know, death at a Bright Eyes concert. He said he had no regrets. He also said something else, but my girlfriend said we had to leave now before the final encore to catch the last train, but it was so great to meet you (speaking to my new friend) and assist in whatever we could assist in when it came to relieving the monotonous suffering of people who didn’t want to be at the Bright Eyes concert.
I turned to my girlfriend and said, “Well, what about me, honey? I didn’t want to be at this Bright Eyes concert but you made me come because your god-uncle had free tickets and a colostomy bag to tend to at home while we sat in his place.” (My girlfriend’s god-uncle has a two-seat season pass at the Royal Albert Hall for his Mahler-loving self and his sociable colostomy bag.) I said to my girlfriend, “I wouldn’t have had to come here to accompany you, if you had a colostomy bag and an irritable bowel problem, but unfortunately you don’t, so I’m here, waiting for Bright Eyes to come back on stage,” but this would be a horrible and ungrateful thing for a boyfriend to say to his girlfriend so actually I simply nodded and mouthed: “OK.”
And so we were silently couples-tittering like this for awhile until my new friend politely told us both to fuck off because Conor might be playing “Lua” next, which was the only Bright Eyes song worth a damn anymore, he thought. I thought that, too; I really love “Lua.” My girlfriend thought we were both entirely nuts. She thought, screw the both of you, and left in a huff. (I’ve not seen her since.) Bright Eyes did not play “Lua” and my new friend died unsatisfied with the state of music in general.
On the way home I listened to the new Destroyer album by myself. It’s still amazing.